My decision to read Monster by Walter Dean Myers was mostly driven by the intrigue of the font on the first few pages and the looming due date of a book review. This novel turned out to be so much more than “Kaushan Script” and a grade-boost as it forced me to explore the unsettling reality of the juvenile detention system.
Although fictional, the novel touches on a disturbingly real situation for many Americans and provides the reader with insight into the cyclical nature of the American judicial system and provokes empathy for the citizens caught up in it.
The novel is the captivating account of a teenage boy named Steven Harmon's frightening journey through the juvenile detention system as well as his trial. The story is presented as a screenplay and includes Steven’s journal entries and memories of life before it was thrown into the chaos of this event. Especially reading this as someone who is around the same age as Steven, Myers forces the reader to not look at Steven as some African-American boy on channel 4, but a friend, a neighbor, a family member. The strategically placed memories of his school life, his interest in film, and his love for his family add a depth to the young protagonist that make it impossible to not feel some compassion throughout the heartbreaking story, even as his innocence is constantly in question.
I recommend this book to anyone looking to better understand the realities of the justice system and the depth of the citizens who occupy it.
I have never liked American classic novels. I always dreaded reading them in my English classes. To Kill a Mockingbird? More like the way to kill my joy of reading. It was nearing the deadline for our semester reading assignment, and I had one book left to read, so I picked the shortest one I possibly could. I could read The Great Gatsby within the weekend--the only problem being it was another dreadful “American Classic”. Although at the time I would have rather read Green Eggs and Ham to my baby cousin 47 times than read The Great Gatsby, I decided to suffer through a mere 180 pages, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The story is set in the mid 1920s, a time of prohibition and success. Nick Carraway, a want-to-be writer but actual bonds salesman, moves to a small house in Long Island wedged between the mansions belonging to New York’s newly rich. Soon after moving, Nick gets an invite to a party by his mysterious neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Nick attends the party, not knowing what to expect. He finds a grand party, but when asking everyone where to find Gatsby, no one could tell him anything but rumours about Gatsby. He also realized he was the only person at the party with an invitation. Finally finding the real Gatsby, Gatsby introduces himself and invites Nick to go hydroplaning with him the next day. Gatsby invites Nick to several more events with him and Nick attends more of Gatsby’s extravagant, full-weekend parties, but Nick is still curious as to why Gatsby is doing all of these things for Nick. While taking his friend Jordan out to eat, Nick finally learns the reason Gatsby keeps engaging with Nick; Gatsby was in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy, and had been in loved with her for five years. Gatsby wanted Nick to invite her over for tea so he could casually stroll in to see her again. There was only one flaw in the plan--Daisy had been married for two years now to a different man, but her husband had been having an affair with another woman. After a brief inner conflict, Nick decides to to Gatsby a solid and invite Daisy over. While things go well for Daisy and Gatsby at tea, as the story unravels and true feelings are revealed, changing the nature of everyone’s relationships forever.
Although this may seem like another sub-par romance novel, this is no John Green or Sarah Dessen book, ladies and gentlemen. The Great Gatsby is an American classic centered around the human’s need for hope in live. Without hope, humans have no way of getting through the hardships in life. Some would say Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy is a bit creepy because he never loses hope that she will end up with him and continues to do everything he can in life to get her back, but the way he perseveres in trying spend the rest of his life with Daisy will keep you turning the pages faster than you can read the words on them.
I had never understood the hype about the classics in American literature. They all seemed to be books about nothing that went on forever, but The Great Gatsby managed to change my mind. This book will toy with your emotions on each page, whether it be making you smile on one or making you cry on the next. Now I understand the reason the Great Gatsby is a classic and has been critically acclaimed for generations. While it may seem outdated, the Great Gatsby will convince you to remain hopeful no matter how bad a situation may seem, making it a truly great book.
Alaina Agnello is a junior at Novi High School. She is involved in two competitive dance teams and loves to read in her free time. She aspires to attend Michigan State University to study Journalism.
For this review i’m going to be blunt right from the get-go. This book, or play rather, is not for all audiences. For those of you craving the blood-stained pages and political intrigue of fantasy novels such as Game of Thrones or the action-packed dystopian thrillers populating the YA genre as of late look elsewhere. This tale is slow-moving and subtle and demands maturity and keen observation to fully appreciate. Ironically, both of these traits were absent in my decision to read this book. I picked it up solely because of its slim profile composed of only 117 pages in comparison to the daunting thickness of some of its 400 page counterparts which simply wouldn’t fit into my cramped reading schedule. At first glance my copy of Death of a Salesman nearly made me faint. Its page count was nearly double that of what Wikipedia promised me. I was beginning to feel anxious as I cracked open the book and flipped to the first page. Guess what I found? An introduction and analysis longer than the book. I was simultaneously relieved and vexed. On one hand the shortened reading time was a benefit but on the other hand I was fooled yet again by the pesky introduction. So with all my worries set aside I returned home, sunk into my leather couch, and began.
Willy Loman can’t seem to catch a break. He’s a man of the people, a salesman, a negotiator whose capitalization on social skills is becoming increasingly irrelevant in an age in which knowledge rather than charisma is the key to success. And he’s no spring chicken. He’s in his early sixties and is already showing signs of a mental breakdown. The past haunts him. Willy carries on longer conversations with himself replaying old memories than with his dutiful wife Linda. His son Biff has always been the apple of his eye. The big, handsome football star with a winning smile and impeccable physique that was destined for greatness. Wrong. He’s a 35 year-old high school flunkie who makes intermittent stops at his father’s house only to hash out old arguments. Death of a Salesman peels back the idyllic appearance of an American middle class family to show its dysfunction in a realistic light.
I’m sure that synopsis put half of you to sleep but for those of you still hanging in there you’re in for a treat. Despite the dry storyline and presentation I loved this book’s realistic characters tackling relatable issues such as unemployment, father-son feuds, infidelity, and much more. Despite being originally published in 1949 I feel this play is just as relevant or even more relevant today than it was 67 years ago. The globalization of the work force today directly ties into the theme of intellectual capital trumping all else. Also I believe its theatrical format adds to the atmosphere of the story with specific stage instructions that reveal the emotions of the characters. While the ending is rather predictable, it remains a testament to realism that reveals how life’s tragedies are often abrupt and unceremonious. Now, after completing this play I realize why the analysis is so thorough. There are so many nuances in the text that deserve attention and for once I may actually want to read the introduction and analysis of a book. One final reason to convince the scholarly and mature reader that has hung on thus far to pick up this book is that the theatrical adaptation of this written play received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and is considered a “modern tragedy” that will add leagues upon leagues to your contextual pool.
Ben Doughty is an eleventh grade student at Novi High School. He enjoys English and European history and devotes his free time to Model United Nations in hopes of having a future in political science.